Joseph Woaly sits at a desk in the middle of a classroom. He’s been overseeing students for over seven years in the La Ruche Enchantée primary school in Haiti. Small children in pink uniforms, laughing girls with pink ribbons in their braided dark hair, walk by him. Years ago, his dream was for his children to study in the same school where he was working because of its good performance. When a tuition waiver program started, all pupils in the school were gradually enrolled, including all his five children. His eldest son, Woade, is 10-years-old and wants to be an eye doctor.
“It is my duty to send my children to school” he says, smiling, when asked how he would have managed without the program. He doesn’t know how he would have paid for the tuition otherwise.
In Latin America, around three million children don’t go to school. In Haiti, parents spend on average $130 every year to send their child to school and more than 200,000 children remain out of school. However, enrollment rates have been going up in recent years. A new World Bank study looks at the impact a tuition waiver program had in the country. There are four important facts everyone should know about education in Haiti:
1. Almost all schools in Haiti are privately run
In the early 2000s, about 90% of schools were private. These are very diverse and are run by religious organizations, non-governmental organizations, or for-profit institutions.
“If I had found the same kind of opportunity at a public school, I would have worked there,” says Innocent Samuel, a third grade teacher. There are limited jobs in public schools and wages tend to be lower in non-public schools.
2. Most schools ask for tuition fees, a barrier for many
Being privately owned, these schools usually require tuition fees. Along with the cost of transport, books, and the mandatory uniform, it is very hard for Haitians to send their children to school.
La Ruche Enchantée, located in a poor Port-au-Prince neighborhood, tuition fees vary from $127. for the first grade to $180. for the sixth grade.
“Before the tuition program, parents found it difficult to pay,” explains Joelle Dalphe, who founded the school with her sister in 1994, “They would never pay the full tuition,”
Due to this, the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank provided financial and technical support for a tuition waiver program, which was launched in 2007. Schools who met program conditions, like an official permit of the government, were given $90. per student annually. This amount is above the estimated tuition fee so that other school materials could also be provided. The program covers children starting primary school between six and eight-years -old.
3. Enrollment rates have risen from 78% to 90%
The World Bank study notes that, when a school participated in the tuition waiver program, more students enrolled and the school also hired more staff. Other school costs for items like the uniform remain but there is less financial strain on families.
Joelle had to take on an extra job just to keep finances afloat. Now, with the tuition waiver program in place, she can work full time at the school.
4. Waiving tuition fees can help children be in a grade that’s appropriate for their age
In 2003, the average age for students in grade six was 16-years-old even if they should have been 11 or 12-years-old. Due to the high cost of schooling, poor families would send their child to school only during months or years when they could afford it. As such, several children lose years of schooling and are too old for their grade level when they come back.
The study found that, in the schools that participated in the tuition waiver program, more children were in a grade appropriate for their age.
“I completed primary school at 17 and secondary school at 25,” says Joseph Woaly, “When parents don’t have to pay monthly or quarterly fees, the children can move forward much faster,”
Public financing of private schools make sense in Haiti and other countries in similar situations. The report notes that the success of the program supports the idea that the public financing of nonpublic services is a doable and promising approach for reaching children who are outside of the system. This bodes well for getting more kids in school on time until they graduate.